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Paper wasps are large, semi-social wasps that are approximately 3/4 to 1 inch long. They have long legs and a narrow waist and are reddish-brown to dark brown (or black) in color, with yellow or orange markings on the abdomen and greyish wings. While in flight, their long legs dangle down beneath them. While they appear similar to yellow jackets, paper wasps are slightly larger and they differ in behavior. Yellow jackets are decidedly more aggressive.

Of the 200 identified paper wasp species, only 22 are found in North America. They typically build their nests under protected overhangs, places such as door frames, eaves, tree branches, and under decks. These nests are small and grey and look like they are made out of paper honeycombs. When fully formed, they are shaped like a tiny umbrella suspended by a short stem.

Paper wasps live in colonies which contain three castes. These castes are workers, males, and queens. Adult wasps feed mostly on nectar and other sweet substances such as honeydew and other fruit juices. Young wasps receive a diet of partially chewed insect parts (including caterpillars and flies) from adult wasps.

Are Paper Wasps Dangerous?

While yellow jackets are more of a threat than paper wasps, paper wasps can still deliver a painful sting when threatened. Their stinger is lance-like and they are able to sting repeatedly. Some people, when stung by paper wasps, experience severe allergic reactions to the wasp's venom. In the event of a severe reaction, medical help should be immediately sought. If you are seeing wasps on your property and know a family member is allergic, it is advisable to seek the help of a professional pest control company.

There are a few things you can do to try to discourage paper wasps from building nests on your property:

  • Trim back shrubs and trees from the exterior of your home, and limit the number of flowering plants you have on your property.

  • Make sure all of your garbage is in trash cans with tight-fitting lids.

  • Place caps on all chimneys, fix loose roof shingles and repair holes along roof lines.

  • Make sure all windows and doors have screens that are in good repair.

If you see these nests beginning to take shape, you can do something about them. These will usually be spotted in protected locations and, if they are easy enough to reach, can be removed with a broom or other long object. These partly-built nests will look like half, or less than half, of an umbrella. Removing partially built nests will discourage those wasps from building in those areas. If you spot partially formed nests in higher locations, you may be able to spray them down using a garden hose. Removing these nests may save you from unwanted stings later in the season.

Once a nest gets beyond the tiny, "half umbrella" stage, it will likely have several wasps living inside it, and it is no longer a wise move to sweep those nests away or spray them with water. The following list contains DIY wasp nest removal strategies that are unwise and unsafe.

  • In high places, such as underneath eaves, do not open windows to reach wasp nests with a broom or other long object. This may cause the population of the nest to swarm into your home!

  • It is unwise to use ladders to reach nests in high places. This not only can lead to multiple stings, it can also lead to a fall and a trip to the emergency room.

  • It is unsafe to spray chemical insect repellents above your head into an overhanging nest. The chemicals will likely drip down onto the person doing the spraying, or blow back in the face if the wind is blowing. Chemicals also may get on a person's hands and be introduced into the body through pores or by contact between the hands and eyes. Spraying a nest with chemicals is also likely to end up with a swarm attacking the person doing the spraying.

  • Do not attempt to remove a nest inside a closed space, such as inside a shed. If proper protective gear is not worn, this will likely lead to multiple stings.

How American Pest Solutions Can Help

If you need assistance removing wasp nests from your property, reach out to the professionals here at American Pest Solutions today. We have the experience and tools to safely and completely eradicate paper wasp nests and other stinging insect nests. For more information about our residential pest control solutions, call us today.

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